Everyone who follows the comings and goings of American politics is counting the days until the next election. (And I’m sure some are simply looking forward with great anticipation to this circus finally being over.) As of this morning there are 77 days to go… unless, that is, you’re looking at the down ticket races and you happen to live in New York’s 3rd congressional district where Democrat Steve Israel is retiring after this term. Normally you’d expect to be voting for his replacement on November 8th along with all the rest of the races, but one of the Republicans vying for the seat has petitioned a federal judge to push the election back to December 6th. (Island Now)
Republican Jack Martins on Friday asked a federal judge to push back November’s 3rd Congressional District election to Dec. 6 to give the GOP some breathing room after an Oct. 6 primary.
The filing in Syracuse federal court comes two days after Judge Frederick J. Scullin ordered a new primary between Martins, an Old Westbury state Senator, and Glen Cove fraud investigator Philip Pidot that will take place only a month before the general election.
Martins also asks Scullin to pull his Aug. 17 order, citing “equal protection problems” raised by the fact that Democrat Tom Suozzi would get five months to run his general election campaign, while Martins would get just one.
This is a strange, though not unprecedented request, following an even more strange GOP primary. Both parties supposedly selected their candidates back on June 28th, with Tom Suozzi getting the nod for the Democrats and Jack Martins representing the GOP. But the twist in the story comes in the fact that one of Martins’ opponents, Philip Pidot, didn’t appear on the ballot. It had been previously ruled that he had failed to submit enough valid signatures for the race, but on June 24th, only four days before the primary, a court ruled that his signatures qualified. Sadly that was too short of a fuse to have the ballots printed with his name on them.
Now a judge has ruled that a new primary must be held but they won’t be able to run that race until October 6. The complaint from Martins is that not only will he only have one month to mount a general election campaign, but that military and absentee voters (who are supposed to have 45 days to fill out and return their ballots) will have insufficient time and be disenfranchised. New York GOP Chairman Ed Cox clearly agrees and released the following statement today.
“Holding the general election in New York’s 3rd congressional district on November 8th will deprive men and women serving in our Military abroad the right to vote in this important election. I join in the call to move the election to December 6th so that our Military members who will be forced to vote by absentee ballot can exercise their fundamental right to participate in the democracy they are overseas fighting to protect.”
It’s not technically impossible to do this and, in fact, the courts have pushed back congressional elections before. (Though it’s admittedly very rare.) But should they? You’re not going to get the same results as you would in the normal course of events. Turnout for a presidential race is pretty much at a peak, but if the court pushes this congressional race out to the first week of December it will essentially be a special election and they generally turn out the smallest number of voters. Of course, from a strictly partisan perspective, that could be great news for the Republican. Steve Israel has been in that seat for a while, and even after the census results recut him into the 3rd District (that area was previously New York 2) he won the last two races by ten points. But the GOP tends to do much better in low turnout, special elections than the Democrats. If Martins can get this thing pushed back to a few weeks before Christmas he just might pull it out.
Despite hoping he manages a win, I have to wonder if these are adequate grounds to make the change to the calendar. Military and absentee ballots will still be counted, provided they are posted within the allowed window of time. (And if the race is close enough for them to make the difference the election just won’t be certified until we have them all counted.) Yes, the GOP candidate will have less time to campaign in general election mode and spend the money specific to that phase of the campaign, but we’re not playing softball here. It’s just bad luck that this happened the way it did.
All in all I won’t be crying if they push the vote back by a month, but it leaves me with an uneasy feeling. Even if Martins wins under those circumstances he’ll have a bit of an asterisk after his name for the next two years.